Declining an invitation shouldn’t be a problem, as long as you know how to express yourself with authenticity and a good reason.

You’ll have to emphasize your own boundaries and needs, while acknowledging that they thought of you with their invite. By accomplishing this, conflicting events and priorities become a non-issue, and you’ll be able to decline an invitation without confrontation.

Step 1: Prioritize

Before you decide which invitations to decline, figure out which will make it harder to maintain your emotional wellness.

You can probably rule out the events that will be extra stressful, ones where you’ll see dysfunctional family or your narcissistic parents, and ones you just don’t want to go to.

If attending feels like an obligation meant to maintain appearances, you may be better off opting out or spending limited time at that event.

Step 2: What’s Your Reason?

If you want to attend, but need to decline an invitation because you already said yes to someone else, it’s OK to say so!

Or if you can’t make it because you’re exhausted, that would also be perfectly understandable.

Alternatively, you might not love the people who invited you. If that’s the case, keep your message polite and to the point – there is no need to act like you’re really bummed, when you’re not. People don’t usually require lengthy explanations, and keeping it simple helps you stay honest.

Sometimes, it is okay to admit to yourself and others that you just need a break from the chaos of family functions. In this situation, reach out to an especially trusted family member, and explain how you feel. They’ll have your back when people start asking questions.

Step 3: How To Say It

Here are some phrase ideas for how you can break the news and decline an invitation with grace:

If you really wanted to go…

  • “I opened your invite with bittersweet emotions. I’d love to join you, but I already committed to another gathering. Please count me in next year!”
  • “I’m already locked in for that day and time, but are there other days around then I could still see you?”
  • “I’m giving myself major FOMO, but there’s no way I can make it for your party. Let me know when there’s a round 2!”
  • “I was excited about your invitation, but I will desperately need some me-time that weekend! I am really exhausted lately…”

If you really didn’t want to go…

  • “Thank you for the invitation. I won’t be able to make it this year, but I’m sure I’ll be missing a great time!”
  • “It’s a bit complicated, but I’m not able to be around *family member* right now. So I’ll have to skip the gathering this year.”
  • “I won’t be able to attend your party, but I feel grateful that you thought of me.”
  • “I’ve realized that I need to reduce commitments right now, for my emotional wellbeing. I’m sorry I won’t be able to make it to your party!”
  • “I’m socially worn thin lately and need to use my day off just to recharge and relax for once. I hope you can understand and I appreciate the invite regardless!”

If it’s going to be a toxic shitshow…

Seriously, no matter what your reason, it’s ok to decline the invite. Your emotional wellness is always the priority.

Whatever you say, make sure to emphasize “I” vs “you” statements to avoid conflict. And try to clarify that your absence is due to your own needs and struggles.

How Do I Accept Multiple Invitations?

If you are stressed about splitting time between two groups, or sets of in-laws, do not despair! Many people face this issue every year, and they usually work out a system.

If the two families live close enough, you could spend half of the day with one family and the rest with the other.

This could look something like a Thanksgiving lunch at one house and then a Thanksgiving dinner at another. Long-term, you could alternate annually between each side of the family or each friend group. 

Of course, there’s also the option of proposing a blended family gathering.

Kill two birds with one stone and bring both your favorite groups together! This way, you avoid declining an invitation, get to see everyone you love, and bring together two sets of great people.

If you decide to bring two separate groups together (family or not), ask your guests to keep alcohol to a minimum, and to steer clear of political and religious discussion. Prepare a game or activity that everyone can share in, to relieve the pressure of getting to know each other.

How Do I Survive Multiple Events?

Even if you’ve already declined a few invitations, you might still have a pileup of events to navigate! Planning ahead will greatly ease the stress of visiting multiple holiday gatherings.

Plan out your timeline – whether for a week of dinners, or single day of marathon parties, know in advance how long to spend at each location, and how and when you will travel between.

Making a timeline will also help you think of other tasks and errands you’ll have to do, leading up to the events (e.g. buying plane tickets, doing laundry, or hiring a dogsitter).

In the rush between multiple gatherings, you’re not going to remember everything, so don’t expect yourself to! Make a single list of all your to-do’s (on your phone, so you won’t misplace it), and set reminders so nothing gets forgotten.

By following these steps, choosing your battles, and thinking ahead, you’ll keep the chaos of multiple events in check.

There Is No Shame In Declining An Invitation

Keep in mind that it is impossible to control everything. Sometimes, things just don’t work, and good friends or family should understand that.

If you are feeling guilty or frustrated about holiday invitations or jealous friends, consider trying an anonymous online chat. It’s a good way to get reassurance that you’re not a jerk, and that it’s ok to decline an invite for the sake of your mental wellness.

Written by Angie Won. This piece originally published at To contact the author, email [email protected].